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USMNT bounces back from rough Hex start, crushes Honduras

When it rains, it pours – literally.

The U.S. Men’s National Team entered Friday night’s World Cup qualifier needing a win against Honduras to keep their World Cup hopes alive. They got that and a whole lot more, routing the Hondurans 6-0 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

U.S. head coach Bruce Arena talked about his team’s excitement for the match the day before during his press conference and his players put that enthusiasm on full display throughout the 90 minutes.

In his USMNT debut, Bay Area native Sebastian Lletget opened the scoring for the Americans, tapping in a cross inside the six-yard box from Christian Pulisic, who was running in on goal.  Honduran keeper Donis Escobar committed to Pulisic, opening the goal for Lletget. Unfortunately, Lletget left the game just a little while later in the 17th minute with an injury.

The Americans doubled their tally in the 27th minute on a rocket of a shot from outside the box by captain Michael Bradley. The midfielder created space and a lane to shoot and laced it low and to the left of Escobar.

As if that wasn’t enough, the U.S. pushed their lead to 3-0 on a goal by Clint Dempsey, who made his first appearance with the national team since being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Dempsey would end up notching a hat-trick in his return to the USMNT, scoring two more goals in the second half, one in the 49th minute and a perfect free kick in the 54th minute that found its way into the upper 90.

Despite going into the half with a comfortable 3-0 lead, the Americans kept their foot on the gas pedal to start the second half. Pulisic notched his fourth international goal just seconds into the half to make it 4-0, just before Dempsey’s pair of goals.

The victory also came at a cost. Along with losing Lletget to injury, defender John Brooks was carried off of the pitch midway through the second half. Luckily for the Yanks, Brooks has a sinus infection and should be fine for Tuesday’s trip to Panama.

With the win and the large margin, the USMNT  jumped from the bottom of the table into fourth place, going from a minus-5 goal differential to plus-1 in their first World Cup qualifying win. They will take on Panama on Tuesday night, looking to get into the top three of the table. Honduras will try to recover from the defeat against Costa Rica in San Pedro Sula on Tuesday.


  1. I agree that Omar played poorly and probably would have been punished against higher caliber international teams. I actually didn’t think Villafana was that bad. It was a tough game to judge in some ways because it was so one sided scoring wise. I don’t think the defense looked that good in general but overall the passing, possession and attacking were so much better than almost any other USMNT game that I’ve seen, even considering the CONCACAF opponent.

  2. So, Its tough to draw conclusions from a game like this, but you can spot concerns and things to keep doing.

    1. Omar played awful… I saw at least 3 situations where a better team punishes him (one he just kind of drifted into no-man’s land and left Brooks to save a goal… inexcusable).

    2. Our set piece defending was not particularly good. Honduras didn’t score, but they looked dangerous on their set pieces and we had a very difficult time clearing. That bit us in the MX match and I worry about some better teams punishing us.

    3. Villafana is a step slow. I saw a couple spots where he was having trouble keeping up with his man. MX especially will have a field day down his sideline.

    4. We still have trouble with possession. Honduras is no MX/CR and they forced us into playing direct very easily…

    For the positives: Pulisic is our 10 period and we need two forwards ahead of him. That is a super dangerous attack that we have to ride. Brooks, Cameron are still good. Ream Acquitted himself well, and Lleget seemed to do well with his opportunity. anyway, Lets see what happens in Panama…

    • I would say that Omar played poorly instead of awful. I don’t think Cameron played especially well either. I think you are 100% spot on with everything else you said. I’m glad you mentioned Villafana. He got turned too easily and had attackers get inside position on him too often. I was afraid he was going to give up a foul in or near the box, but at least h he avoided that. I have doubts that he is the answer at LB and think we are better off with Fabian there and we don’t really need Fabian in the midfield.

      • Gary, I re-watched the second half and I saw Omar give up 3 goals against a better team. (he didn’t cover a back post run, Granted, Zusi also lost his man and Villafana gave the ball away by not running… but still). He had a terrible pass give-away, you must remember that. And then he we caught out late 89th minute or so, I forget. On the left side I’m not sure what we do. I would love to see Fabian in MF with Pulisic, Dempsey, Wood and Altidore/Morris… but how do you fit that on the field? LB is a problem.. 3 in the back? It looked awful against MX… but I think it fits our personnel… but I have to shut up about it given how we have looked playing it.

      • I’m going to respectfully disagree regarding Villafana. I usually watch the games more than once and on second viewing, i thought he actually played well. His positioning was good, he tracked back well, broke up a number of Honduran plays by poking the ball away, made the occasional foray forward (not too much) and participated in some triangle passing. Interestingly enough, on second viewing, I didn’t think Cameron had that good a game. Omar was unimpressive and gave the ball away once or twice although my initial impression that he was terrible has been modified slightly upward to say, “bad”. Brooks and Ream did reasonably well. Panama choices will be interesting.

  3. Nagbe was my third star of the match, after Dempsey and Pulisic. He was was composed under pressure and helped open up play.

  4. This is a Honduras team that battled to a stalemate in the Azteca with Mexico, a hard fought battle in the last qualifying round. I’d just say that they grossly underestimated us and were completely bamboozled and shell shocked by us. They just couldn’t recover after the first goal

    • Something Stewart Holden alluded to made a difference. Honduras were pressing high and causing some problems in the first minute of the game. When the US scored on their first real counter attack it set them back psychologically. Considering the outcome, the Honduran coach made a bad decision on how to approach the game. With Jozy, Pulisic, and Dempsey in the attack their high pressing left them too vulnerable in the back. If they had bunkered in it might have been a much closer game. I doubt anyone could have predicted how much of a difference Deuce and an improved Pulisic would make.

  5. Selection, lineup and tactics. The things that were puzzling or sometimes infuriating with JK were nailed last night by the Bruce. No doubt the NATS earned it on the field. Also, they were set up for success. Now let’s see how we build on this. Terrific win!

  6. So the coach is not the problem? Same players different result and the coach wasn’t the problem? Sorry Klinsmann lovers HE WAS THE PROBLEM!!!! When has the US ever dominated like this in the last 3 years??? When has the team looking this good in the past 3 year
    Players looked very sharp
    Player playing WITH A PURPOSE
    Backline, midfield and forwards ALL LOOK IN SYNC!!!!!
    Players look health AND QUICK
    Same player pool
    So again, so the coach wasn’t the problem?

    • i wouldn’t go overboard on this result.

      first of all, i didn’t think most of our players looked sharp; it was actually pretty sloppy, and they would’ve been punished against a better team. and the mid and defense was absolutely *not* in sync—there were several times where they obviously weren’t sure who was supposed to do what—which, again, would’ve been punished against a better team. (our attackers looked great; no complaints there.)

      bottom line is—and it’s been said before—our previous games were 2 of the toughest we have in wcq; this game is always one we’re supposed to win.

      that said, if anything points to a difference in mentality/attitude/whatever you want to call it, it’s the scoreline of the last two games.

      i wasn’t suprised that we lost to costa rica, but the manner of the loss was staggering—i’d never seen our team give up on the field, and it was obvious (to me) that the players, by and large, were done with klinsmann. conversely, it’s not surprising that we beat honduras, but there was a casual confidence to their play that we haven’t seen in quite some time.

      tl;dr: klinsmann had to go, but i’d temper your expectations, given the circumstances of this match.

      • I respect your perspective Nate but I think we watched a different game. The USA absolutely dominated this game in DYNAMIC FASHION and we haven’t dominated anybody scoring 6 goals in the past years ever since we played the carpenters and security guards from St. Vincent on Nov 13, 2015. Our record with this team we just destroyed:

        USA 2 vs Honduras 1 July 2015
        USA 1 vs Honduras 1 October 2014
        USA 1 vs Honduras 0 June 2013

        Players losing ball and tracking back, Dempsey having a hat trick and running people down (he actually looked quick!!!); Altidore not scoring but having a major impact in the game (all game long); Bradley playing like a strong DM, tackling, dribbling inside and scoring; Brooks / Gonzalez looking nothing like it did against Costa Rica…..I know it’s just one game but there was so much to take away from this game. For once, in over 2-3 year we played in sync, with a purpose and as a US team.

      • Nate, I too respect your opinion. I agree with much of what you say. At the end of the day, the players had tuned out JK for whatever reason. It happens in every sport. Guys get used to hearing what the coach says, and eventually it is reflected in their play. I think JK’s problem is he doesn’t to appear to have continued to grow himself as a coach. Leaders have to find new ways to say the same priniciples. They have to engage not only the heart of the players but their minds as well. I think they grew tired of “express yourself” and the hollow platitudes.

        Our defending was not great last night, maybe not even good. But i believe it will be when we get the right guys in their respective spots. Great win! Encouraging, and I am looking foward to Tuesday night. Have a great day. I am going to go watch the game again. 🙂

    • Look, A couple more results like this and I’ll eat my crow. but lets not go overboard with a single 6-0, because the US crushed Costa Rica 4-0 under JK and that was a game where we looked just as good as in this one.

      That being said, I totally underestimated Arena’s attacking attitude and lineup selection. Color me tickled.

    • I loved the result, but you can’t be making those kind of statements after one game. First, I don’t think Honduras is typically the kind of cannon fodder that we can thrash 6-0 on a regular basis. You must have them confused with SVG or Antigua & Barbuda. Secondly, you can’t judge either of them on the basis of one game or three games. Don’t get me wrong, I think Arena was just what the MNT needed. I just think it’s premature to start comparing the two coaches so soon.

    • Arena played Pulisic out of position. He almost always plays on the wing for Dortmund. Also, he played Cameron at RB and Omar at CB;, something many SBI readers normally find objectionable. And he brought on Zusi to replace Cameron and Bedoya for Lletget and many here have strenuously objected to either of those players seeing the field. Just like Donovan last night, you are letting your dislike of Klinsmann color your judgment. Donovan said many things that could be argued, but one was especially stupid, I think, as he was doing everything to make Klinsmann look bad. He said that it was good that they had a new manager since with the old manager Brooks probably wouldn’t have played because he had two bad games in the last round. Klinsmann was always going to play Brooks. Brooks is his guy and as long as Brooks is healthy Klinsmann was going to play him, so that was an unfair and biased remark. At one point Stu Holden had to interject and point out how the early goal made such a difference and pointed out some other things so that Donovan began to back off some of his one sided remarks.And, BTW, in every sport and most every team there is usually an early bounce when a coach is replaced. The real test for the US under Arena will be at Mexico, at Honduras, and Costa Rica at home.

      • pulisic can play anywhere across the front—especially against the likes of honduras—and has played centrally for dortmund lately.

        cameron is certainly comfortable at right back (although i didn’t think he was stellar last night), and zusi wasn’t introduced until the game was basically over; i still don’t like the idea of him as a defender, but if bruce is set on it, this was a good scenario to get him in there.

        and gonzo was a concession that had to be made; i don’t like it, but i understand it. and he also wasn’t *that* bad, except when he started trying to play short passes.

        bottom line: arena’s decisions made sense, even if they weren’t ideal.

        also, i didn’t like the idea of donovan commentating at first (for a couple of reasons), but i’m liking it more now, simply because i love hearing awkward pauses in live broadcasts. 🙂 My favorite was when they kept bringing up the fact that deuce will soon break his scoring mark, and donovan couldn’t think of anything nice to say after the first time.

  7. It’s just one game and I don’t want to make too much of it, but the team sure looked alot better with the new manager. The team seemed to have a renewed spirit. Good to see that Arena trotted out the most attack minded lineup he had available with the roster as is.

    The Panama roster should be even more interesting with Lletget and Brooks coming off injured, assuming they can’t go against Panama. Cameron also came off but that looked precautionary.

      • That’s a weird one. It was a cold and rainy night in San Jose. Must be one of those freak things, or Brooks really needs to increase his water intake.

  8. This game was full of beautiful soccer. Dempsey, Pulisic, Altidore, and Bradley being the primary artists. Lleget and Nagbe both pitched in as well and once Bedoya found the game he contributed too.

    6 goals. 6 goals with their backs against the wall and the World Cup on the line. 5 of which were created from the run of play, the sixth created by winning a free kick and even that one was brilliant.

    That game was everything we have always hoped from stylistically. It was a mix of attacking through deep posession, through the central midfield, in the final third against a packed defense, from set plays, and defending with aplomb all while displaying the trademark American belief, willpower, and work ethic.

    Good work, boys.


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